Maine Governor Signs Bill Allowing Non-Doctors to Carry out Abortions

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
June 11, 2019USshare
Maine Governor Signs Bill Allowing Non-Doctors to Carry out Abortions
Rhe State House is surrounded by fall foliage in Augusta, Maine, on Oct. 23, 201. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo)

Maine’s Democratic governor signed a bill on June 10 that lets a host of non-doctors perform abortions.

The bill lets physician assistants and nurses perform abortions in addition to allopathic and osteopathic physicians.

“Current Maine law bans Advanced Practice Clinicians, including Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants from providing abortion care while citing no medical justification. As a result, women in rural areas of the state can be required to travel hours for reproductive care, despite the presence of qualified, experienced practitioners in their own communities,” according to Gov. Janet Mills’ office.

Seven other states, including California, New York, and Vermont, let non-doctors perform abortions, the office said.

an ultrasound film of a thirteen week fetus
A file photo of an ultrasound film of a 13-week-old fetus. (Kornn Photo/iStock)

“Allowing qualified and licensed medical professionals to perform abortions will ensure that Maine women, especially those in rural areas, are able to access critical reproductive health care services when and where they need them from qualified providers they know and trust,” Mills said in a statement.

“These health care professionals are trained in family planning, counseling, and abortion procedures, the overwhelming majority of which are completed without complications.”

Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, also a Democrat, said in a statement that only letting doctors perform abortion was “outdated.”

“This law will allow women to receive the care they need from a provider they trust and eliminate the financial and logistical hurdles they face today,” she said.

LD 1261 was introduced on March 14 and passed a vote by the state House 74-58, with 16 absent, on May 21. The state Senate passed it 19-16 three days later.

Opponents of allowing non-doctors to perform abortions said the measure will make abortions riskier while increasing the number of abortions.

“This is not women’s health care,” Kristina Terry, a registered nurse from Benton, testified in May before the House, reported the Portland Press-Herald.

“This is a push to lower the standards of women’s health care that is driven by a desire for greater access (to abortions). It is a massive degradation of the safety standards and puts lives at risk and the future reproductive health of Maine women.”

Dr. Danae Kershner, a family practice physician in Aroostook County, said nurses and physician assistants provide good care to patients but ultimately rely on doctors.

Abortions can result in heavy bleeding, infections, and cutting of the uterus or other issues that could cause severe medical issues, including death, she said.

NTD Photo
In an illustration photo, a doctor performs an ultrasound on a pregnant woman during her visit to a gynecologist. (Jennifer Jacobs/AFP/Getty Images)

“We are asking midlevel providers to perform abortions with little to no physician oversight or plans for managing the complications that most certainly will develop at some point,” Kershner said. “This risk would not be acceptable for any other procedure.”

A number of pro-life groups also voiced opposition to the bill, including Maine Right to Life Committee, the Rosetta Foundation, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.

The committee said in an alert (pdf) to supporters before the bill was passed that “Maine’s extreme abortion industry continues to demand even ‘more access’ to elective abortion.”

“According to a lawsuit filed by Maine Family Planning and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, in Maine District Court in 2017, removing the ‘physician only’ restriction would allow abortion in Maine to be committed evenings and weekends, and would be more convenient for women, especially women from Northern Maine who sometimes may have to travel a couple hours round trip to have their elective abortions,” the group added.

“Say what? What about the safety of Maine women? Aren’t the abortion activists always claiming to be ‘pro-women?’ How is mandating legislation to reduce the standards of care considered ‘caring?'”

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